ELYRIA — A tentative agreement between the county and Job and Family Services union employees will leave spousal health care coverage up to the commissioners.
According to the agreed-upon language, the commissioners can decide that it will be made available only to employees’ spouses who do not have other coverage options or make less than $25,000 in conjunction with having more expensive coverage options through their employer.
Instead of imposing this “carve out,” the commissioners also can establish a monthly surcharge rate for spouses who want to stay on the county’s plan.
However, if the surcharge, which County Administrator Jim Cordes said will fluctuate based on health care costs, goes above $500, negotiations regarding this portion of the contract can be reopened.
This was the major sticking point for members of the UAW Local 2192, who went on strike at the end of September in response to a similar offer from the county.
At the time, co-chair of the union’s bargaining union Kelly Fields said the commissioners were asking members to “sign a blank check” when it came to the surcharge because members couldn’t be told what it was going to be.
With the tentative agreement in place, workers returned to the agency Tuesday, ending a strike that last longer than a month.
“I’m just glad that it’s concluded and they’re back to work,” Cordes said. “They provide vital services to our county.”
At a commissioners meeting Wednesday, commissioner Lori Kokoski thanked Cordes for reaching the tentative agreement over the weekend.
“I’m glad they’re back to work and I’m sure so are the people who are most vulnerable in our community who rely on the services that these workers provide,” she said. “I also want to thank the people who stepped up to keep the agency going. We are required to provide these services, so we can’t just shut the doors and lock them while the union was on strike.”
Commissioner Matt Lundy said he couldn’t thank the administrator and negotiating team enough for the work they did to finally bring a resolution.
“Strikes are like a war,” he said. “No one wins and it certainly takes its toll on the members, the families and the community, but the bottom line is now we have an agreement. We need to rip off the rearview mirror and look forward through the windshield and continue to serve the residents of the community.”
Lundy said the agency serves 49,000 families in Lorain County and that the employees have very difficult and tough jobs to navigate.
“We respect and value what they do,” he said. “We’re thrilled that they are back.”
Fields did not return requests for comment Wednesday.
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